EDITOR-IN-CHIEF of The Guardian newspapers, Alan Rusbridger expressed optimism about the papers future despite reports of significant losses of up to £100k per day late last year and his faith in new media in the face of the failing media business model, at the second Coventry Conversation of 2010 at Coventry University.
Speaking about Rupert Murdoch’s planned pay wall for his papers’ news sites, Rusbridger said The Guardian have no plans to adopt the new model but felt it was good that journalism was “trying different things”. However he didn’t consider it to be the solution for everyone: “It would be crazy if we were to all jump behind a pay wall and imagine that would solve things”
The Guardian is faring better than most in the midst of what’s being dubbed as the most severe financial crisis for more than a century by some media outlets, however Rusbridger confirmed that the figures that suggested the paper was losing £100,000 a day were accurate at the peak of the crisis, however owned by The Scott Trust helped ease the troubles.
When asked whether The Guardian was a sinking ship Alan said: “No not at all… If I stop to think about the business model its sometimes quite scary” going on to advise Coventry journalism students to: “think about the journalism rather than worrying so much about the business model”. As journalists tend to not make the best business people.
However The Guardian is one of the few media outlets that’s managed to successfully find a new way make money out of Internet news recently, The Guardian app on the IPhone has already reached 70,000 downloads since its launch mid December last year, receiving a four and a half star out of five rating, taking it straight to the top of the Apple paid app chart. Alan admitted that initially the app exceeded all expectations highlighting that people are willing to pay for content on mobile where they wouldn’t on the desktop.
New Media was the underlying theme of the Conversation particularly when asked to explain to an audience of 18 to 25 year olds what skills he’s looking for from applicants. As well as “more stamina, more persistence, more cunning, more ability” Alan explained how it is their generation that will drive news production and that it’s going to be all about having the skills to use the latest technology. He also repeated that if you’re not comfortable with ambiguity and insecurity then you shouldn’t go into journalism.
In July last year it was reported in The Guardian that Rusbridger was taking a 10% pay cut after an 11% rise to £445,000 salary the previous year. When asked by a student if he felt guilty taking home nearly £500,000 when the paper was losing money he defended his position, saying he’s paid what The Scott Trust decide, that the amount he earns is less than other National Editors and that he fought hard for the 10% cut: “I’m the only journalist on the guardian possibly fleet street to actually beg for my pay to have been cut down”
Although the doom and gloom that surrounds the business of journalism became the theme once again Rusbridger seemed hopeful about The Guardian’s future and that there are still going to be jobs for journalists in 2010.